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Sherrod Brown Now Opposes the "Torture Bill" | The Nation

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Sherrod Brown Now Opposes the "Torture Bill"

Freshman Senator Sherrod Brown, a popular progressive leader who shocked his supporters by voting for the Military Commissions Act (MCA) last year, now says the vote was a mistake that he intends to "correct."

Speaking with Air America's Cenk Uyger at the Take Back America Conference yesterday, Brown said he regretted the "bad vote":

"I take responsibility. It was the heat of the campaign and I made a mistake."

After backing the MCA, commonly known as the "Torture Bill" in the liberal blogosphere, Brown was kicked out of the Blue America fundraising program. Howie Klein, one of three bloggers who runs the effort, says Brown is the "only person" who was ever booted after an endorsement.

I don't think there will ever be a way to understand how so many members of Congress, who take an oath to uphold the Constitution, could vote for such a patently unconstitutional and un-American bill. Some simply denied the reality that they were advancing torture and undermining our Constitutional rights, others buckled under perceived political pressure--although it was hardly a banner year for the bill's Republican sponsors--and some simply admitted they were betraying their oath and their country.

During the congressional debate, for example, then-Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter admitted on the Senate floor that the bill was unconstitutional. The MCA is likely to go down in history with the Alien and Sedition Acts as one of the worst congressional assaults on the Constitution in American history, as International League for Human Rights President Scott Horton writes in this month's Harper's.

But it is still real progress for members of Congress to admit their mistake and promise to "correct" it, as Brown is doing, just as it was encouraging to see Senator Leahy lead the Judiciary Committee in backing legislation to restore habeas corpus this month.

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In other habeas corpus news, here is a new letter from MoveOn.org Executive Director Eli Pariser, responding to a piece I wrote last month. (The two related Nation pieces are here and here.)

Letter to the Editor, The Nation

We'd like to reassure your readers, see your piece "Why Won't MoveOn Move on Habeas Corpus?" May 21, that MoveOn has moved, is moving and will continue to move on habeas corpus. We didn't include habeas corpus in our membership poll, as you noted, because we already knew our members consider the issue a high priority.

Earlier this Spring, we asked our members to call their Representatives on the House Armed Services Committee and demand that they restore habeas corpus language in the Defense Authorization Bill. Last year we mobilized against the Military Commissions Act, did a major campaign against the government's wiretapping program, supported Senator Feingold's call for censure, ran an ad against wiretapping that compared Bush to Nixon, mobilized members before every relevant committee vote in Congress, helped put together an event with the American Constitution Society and the Liberty Coalition where Al Gore attacked the Bush Administration's assault on civil liberties in detail, and another event where Senator Feingold did the same.

Right now, we're working in coalition with other organizations to find more opportunities to restore habeas corpus and other constitutional rights eliminated or undermined by the Bush Administration with Congressional complicity. We share your concern that everything possible be done to achieve this goal.

Eli Pariser

MoveOn.org Political Action Executive Director

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